Wheel Without End

Luis Rubio

In memory of Rodolfo Tuirán

The government changed and the citizenry’s perceptions changed, but what has not changed is that particularly Mexican propensity to destroy everything that exists to build something totally new, without taking advantage of either the good of the past or the lessons of previously committed errors. Each president thinks that they have been singled out as superior beings to make their own mistakes and orchestrate their own botch-jobs.

Above all else, Mexico’s political system leads to everything being conceived in political terms and not as a function of development:   what is important is to gain power and disregard citizen needs and demands. Therefore, the wheel is reinvented every six years, solutions are promised without conducting a diagnosis of the problem to be solved, and programs are cast aside because the newcomers –every six years- want to inflict their biases instead of building on what exists due to mere craving for change.

The point is obvious: there is neither continuity nor the least interest in learning from the lessons of the past to improve the future. How, in this context, will it be possible to progress?

The incongruence between the discourse and the results is pitiful and everyone sees it. A new president arrives –at any echelon of government- and the first thing they do is dismiss those who do know, to summarily bring in their own experts.   Of course the new ones don’t know anything, but they do know one thing: what exists, what was done in the past, is not good. This so very Mexican tradition takes place every six years without distinction between persons or ideologies.

The new team arrives full of assuredness and spirit but without knowing the reality of what they will be up against. What they do know is that the outgoing team is incompetent and ignorant (and, now, corrupt), thus it is not necessary to consult or learn from it. In that first replacement the existing experience and memory, however little, is lost, which explains the highly deplorable results that ensue when crucial entities –such as public security, the  Attorney General’s Office, the Department of the Interior, and the Treasury- come into play. Rather than an uninterrupted succession, the new team begins to push the stone up the mountain, like Sisyphus in Greek mythology, never reaching the summit. By the time the public officials have learned, it’s time for the new team to push the stone up one more time.

Of course, there are many things that should change in the country, but there are many others that were working reasonably well. The unwillingness of our system of government to differentiate between these two realities accounts for, at least to some degree, the stubbornness of abandoning what did work instead of concentrating the new government’s efforts on the matters that in effect require a radically new conception.

The result, observable in one six-year term after another, is that the existing programs never reach fruition or reveal their potential for resolving the problems supposedly to be attacked. In fact, most of the programs that are adopted typically respond more to prejudices, preconceptions and ideological visions than to consolidated and tested out diagnoses about the specific problem.

For example, today very cheap gas is imported from the U.S. because in that country there is a great overproduction, but that circumstance will change as soon as the liquefied natural gas terminals currently being constructed there start functioning. What would be rational would be to prioritize Pemex’s very scarce resources for developing gas wells rather than building a new refinery, when there are several others operating very much under their capacity and, in addition, the world gasoline market is much more stable and predictable than that of gas. Construction of a new refinery responds to an ideological vision, not to a diagnosis of the circumstances characterizing the fuel market or its potential evolution.

What is striking about Mexico is that the country progresses despite the government’s proclivity for reinventing the wheel every six years. What is not so striking or difficult to elucidate is the persistence of ancestral problems such as poverty and the ever increasing backwardness experienced by the country’s south. The country advances in spite of the government and, at the same time, the government renders it very difficult for the entire country to emerge from the vicious circles stemming from the lack of continuity of programs and public policies. This reminds me of Bertrand Russell’s famous saying: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” If we replace the fool with the novice and the wise with the experienced, we find therein a good part of the explanation of Mexico’s perennial underdevelopment.

In Mexico there are many things that should change to ensure a peaceful coexistence and one without violence, in order to reduce poverty and create opportunities for the upsurge and development of millions of new enterprises and afford opportunities to today’s youth for them to be successful when they are adults and become incorporated into a world of work dramatically distinct from that conceived of by current educative programs. If we’re going to reinvent the wheel, this should materialize in these spaces, because this is where the future of the country lies.